Tuesday, February 22, 2011

March 1938: Detective Comics #14

Cover by Creig Flessel

I've just noticed that Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson is no longer listed as Editor and Publisher.  With Whitney Ellsworth having left recently as well, that leaves Vin Sullivan as the sole editor of the DC line.  At least that means I won't have to type Wheeler-Nicholson's name any more.

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): Speed Saunders has another weird story this month.  He's in an African jungle, trying to help Doris Dane find her father, an aviator who has been missing for months.  Doris gets captured by cannibals, and is rescued by Speed before she can be eaten alive.  The cannibals are ruled by a white man, and it is not until the very end of the story, after the cannibals have fled and Speed has spent a good page beating this guy up, that it is revealed that he is the aviator they were looking for.  It's the main focus of the story, but it's just thrown in as an afterthought, which comes across as very lazy and haphazard writing.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck is dealing with yet another rustling scheme.  I am just begging for this strip to finish.  This is the first ever Buck Marshall strip in colour, which I hope isn't a sign of its growing popularity.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry Steele wraps up the kidnapping plot by blasting the door down and shooting every criminal in sight.  I admire his direct approach, even if it didn't make for a particularly interesting story.

'Bruce Nelson in Too Many Crooks' (by Tom Hickey):  This story is quite complex by the standards of the time, with numerous characters on a cruise ship trying to steal a diamond.  There's a romantic subplot going on, with a criminal love interest who wants to go straight, as well as a group of proper crooks.  And the cliffhanger, where Bruce shoots the guy who the diamond rightfully belongs to, was unexpected and intriguing.  The 'Bruce Nelson' strip is turning out to be one of the most consistently good things around.

'Oil from China' (by Gardner Fox):  Huzzah, it's another two-page prose story! Again, it's a simplistic tale of Chinese folk being smuggled into the US in oil drums.  The opening, with a ship's crew having found a severed arm in the water, was engaging, but the rest fell flat.

'The Black Case' (by Russell Cole): This is a fairly straightforward mystery about a man killing his cousin to inherit his money.  I didn't even have to concentrate too hard to follow it, which is a miracle for Cole's stuff.

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): A villain steals a ray gun and takes it to his castle to sell it to the highest bidder.  It's an adequate story elevated by a good dose of super-villainy.

'Hot Trail Hogan' (by Russell Cole): In which the eponymous detective catches jewel thieves who are posing as the police assigned to guard a ruby.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo takes on a group of racketeers who are in the poultry game.  I realise that this was probably some serious business rooted in actual fact, and that there were undoubtedly dangerous men doing this sort of thing, but the fact remains that this is a chicken racket.  And it's pretty hard to take that sort of thing seriously in fiction.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): Slam heads up north looking for a miner who has disappeared.  It's a fairly simple plot, with crooks having kidnapped the man to get him to sign over his valuable mine.  But Slam is extra cranky, which is usually fun.  It's still not as good as it was, though.  I miss the formula that Siegel and Shuster were using in the early days of this strip.


  1. I've only read the first Bruce Nelson installment, but how it stood head and shoulders over the other features in Detective Comics #1! I'd love to get to read them all someday. A missed opportunity for a trade paperback from DC!

  2. I don't think that the subsequent Bruce Nelson stories match up to the one in Detective #1. And that trade would never sell.

    And I liked the Slam Bradley strip in issue #1 better.